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Due Process, Gregg Williams & The Bounty Investigation

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Sept. 18, 2011;New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during their game against the Chicago Bears at the Louisiana Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE
Sept. 18, 2011;New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams during their game against the Chicago Bears at the Louisiana Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE

The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution includes the Confrontation Clause, the right for the accused to face witnesses against them (the 14th Amendment extended that to the states). It only applies to criminal cases, and it apparently does not apply to the NFL's investigation of the New Orleans Saints pay-to-injure program.

One of the chief complaints from the NFLPA in the bounty investigation and yesterday's punishment handed down by the league centers on due process, or a lack thereof. Players punished yesterday have not been allowed to face the witnesses testifying against them.

The NFL player discipline system is not the criminal court system, which requires far higher standards for obvious reasons. Still, it's something the NFLPA takes exception with, as they made clear in their statement on Wednesday. And I listened to George Atallah talk about it last Wednesday night.

The NFL, on the other hand, takes the opposite stance. In fact, Mary Jo White, the former prosecutor hired by the NFL to review the investigation shrugged it off.

That issue is likely to get more attention as the battle over this continues.

In another interesting twist, Mike Florio at PFT suggests that Gregg Williams could be cooperating with the investigation, i.e. one of those witnesses the accused will not have the chance to face. Florio's argument goes that Williams' reinstatement hinges on his full cooperation with the league, which could mean sorting out players' roles in the program.

If so, it makes Williams' reinstatement that much more complicated by creating a natural tension between him and his players, hence the need for anonymous witnesses. The Williams part is pure speculation from PFT.

The issue of right or wrong regarding due process is very real.